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Boomtown Fair: A meeting of minds and music

Thousands of festival-goers woke up to the news that their long-awaited weekend of music and celebration was cancelled, as Boardmasters had to close its gates due to a severe weather warning. The torrential weather that halted proceedings in Newquay was most definitely felt in Winchester. Despite this, the wind and rain did by no means dampen the spirits of the Boomtown faithful.

‘A radical city’, the 11th chapter, positioned Boomtown in a predicament which mirrored the world we live in now; one deeply impacted by our use of its finite resources and one becoming a slave to its own creations. The line-up featured a number of household names, including the likes of Lauryn Hill, The Streets and UB40, without betraying Boomtown’s roots as a festival centred around emerging and underground names in music.

By Friday morning anticipation amongst attendees for the opening ceremony was palpable. The proceedings were led by Leeds’s very own Gentleman’s Dub Club at Lion’s Den. The energetic group delivered a set which was both dynamic and poised as the collective were able to mesmerise the spectators and kickstart the new chapter in Boomtown’s impressive history.

Shy FX opened the Relic stage, accompanied by Dynamite MC; it seemed as if divine intervention was at play as the clouds which had dominated the skies over Matterly estate seemed to part way as ‘Call me’ blared out from the sound system. SHY FX’s set was hard-hitting and merged the icon’s array of classics with delightful twists and turns. As the set began to approach its climax the music suddenly halted, as rugged winds led to parts of the Relic stage becoming detached and flying into the crowds, causing the stage to be closed for the rest of the day. Despite the premature finish, SHY FX’s set was certainly one to remember. In a day filled with outstanding performances the Nucleus stage was closed by Four Tet, who captivated the audience with a graceful set that incorporated various elements of electronic music with fluidity. The crowd were visibly captivated by the London-based DJs mastery on the decks. His inclusion of his array of releases such as ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Teenage Birdsong’ gave the set a remarkable sense of individuality which is often hard to produce and was the perfect ending to a remarkable first day in the ‘Radical city’.

Although the tents barely survived the night, anticipation filled the air as the prospect of The Streets headlining, as well as standout acts such as Groove Armada and Carl Cox foreshadowed a day of excitement. The highlight of the festival came courtesy of The Streets, who played at the Lion’s Den that was full to the rafters of the festival faithful. As the chimes of ‘Turn the Page’ began to blare out it marked the beginning of an hour of celebrating The Streets’ catalogue of anthems which resonate as much now as they did when ‘Original Pirate Material’ was released in 2002. Although not quite as fresh faced as he was at the turn of the millennium, and with slightly more of a belly, Skinner was as energetic as ever, performing songs from his plethora of works. He was not afraid of letting his most recognisable songs take centre stage to accommodate for the party atmosphere of Lion’s Den. The Streets delivered a masterclass in how to headline a festival.

Ms. Lauryn Hill, arguably the most anticipated headliner of the weekend, was expected to start at 9:30, however, she made her way on to the stage well over an hour after this time. Her set was revolved around her legendary album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’, which last year became 20 years old. The set was filled with remastered versions of all her classics. Although Hill’s talent is undeniable, in her quest to re-imagine her classics the hip-hop legend lost touch with the crowd and isolated the audience who wanted to sing along to the tunes which defined their musical upbringing.

The beauty of Boomtown festival is not just in its core line-up of music, but also in the ecosystem it has created, which varies from the vast ‘Metropolis’ to the enclosed ‘Copper Canon’. The 14 districts offer a sense of exploration which other festivals simply do not have. The actors which occupy the districts remain in character and add to the illusion, allowing festival- goers to become completely enthralled by the spectacle of the ‘Radical City’. The music on offer at the more intimate stages was remarkable, a standout tent was the Pirate Studios tent, which propelled an array of up and coming DJs into the festival environment. The expansive nature of Boomtown meant that when the music was not the focus there was an endless supply of enjoyment to be had exploring the sights on offer.

Boomtown Chapter 11: ‘A Radical city’ was able to overcome the adverse weather in flying colours and create a haven for adventure and musical discovery. Pressing issues such as climate awareness were also advocated, which led to the waste production of the festival declining by 70% from 2018. The dreary weather certainly didn’t rain on Boomtown’s parade of all that is weird and wonderful.

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